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Growing backwards: focusing your marketing strategy

06.11.19

by Thomas Emmerson

Planning for business growth with a marketing strategy

'What you focus on is what you get, so focus on what you want' is a popular phrase that can be applied to almost any endeavour. And yet the 'focus' part of the saying lends itself to multiple layers of interpretation, to the point where the person or the business fails not through lack of enthusiasm, but lack of focus.

Focus noun, plural  fo-cus-es, fo-ci

  1. a central point, as of attraction, attention or activity;

The need to prevent a nuclear war became the focus of all diplomatic efforts. Source

It may seem excessive to define what focus means but this comes from the reality that, in many cases, businesses attempt to 'focus' on several things. Which, by definition, is unfocused. We all know how dangerous being distracted can be, statistics show that 9 people are killed every day due to car crashes involving a distracted driver in the US. Yet in business, owners and managers become blinkered to this reality and task team members and partners with the challenging remit of achieving multiple, often conflicting points of focus.

The results are; none are achieved. Which begs the question, why not identify one simple focus with an increased chance of success over multiple objectives with a reduced, or impossible, success likelihood?

In order for a focus to stand the best chance of success it should use the SMART framework and if it ticks all of those boxes then it immediately stands a better chance of succeeding because its focus is increased.

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Timebound

We also recommend that the thing you focus on is key to business success. An annual financial target is a good goal. If that has been well thought out then it should cover all foreseeable costs and give a healthy margin for growth going into the next year. Here's an example of this in the SMART format;

Specific

Are you focused on one specific outcome? Eg; increasing revenue, growing net profit, reducing operating costs.

Measurable

Do you have a specific figure to measure this success by? Eg; We want to increase revenue by 20%.

Attainable

Do you have the resources to achieve this? There's no point having a goal to send a rocket to the moon if you don't have the people, funds and resources to do so.

Realistic

Given your market constraints, legal requirements, local hiring restrictions or market share is your goal realistic?

Timebound

Having a set time when this goal should be achieved helps everyone plan for this goal. It helps to ask whether the timeframe is realistic - have similar businesses achieved this goal in this timeframe and if so do you have the same resources and capabilities?

When looking at how you grow a business backwards you start with the end in mind and walk back from that identifying all the necessary steps required to achieve that goal. This may involve:

  • Investing in a new factory
  • Hiring new people
  • Integrating new systems
  • Developing unique processes
  • Researching infrastructure capabilities

By starting with the end goal in mind, and by focusing on the outcome a business is more likely to achieve the goal – especially if it remains focused. The biggest factor affecting success is a business's ability to plan for success and maintain that path.

A change in focus effectively means the business is wiping the slate clean, planning needs to start again and a new assessment needs to be undertaken. Likewise adding a new focus means re-assessing the plan against the SMART framework with an added emphasis on the 'Attainable' and 'Realistic' points; is it attainable and realistic to achieve both goals with the same resources. After all, you're effectively doubling the expectations.

For business owners the question remains; would you rather have an increased chance of achieving one thing or a slim chance of achieving two?

Creating a SMART goal for your business provides all teams with focus. You can share the goal and task with them creating a plan that helps their department achieve its part. It should be the role of mid-level management to take this goal and work out what they can implement to help achieve it. As senior management giving them the opportunity to work out a plan for themselves creates buy-in to the plan and makes them responsible for implementing their part.

As a marketing agency we're often given the business's goal and the task of outlining how we will help achieve this. The thing we do is get down to the nuts and bolts by asking:

  • What's the average sale per customer?
  • How many new customers does this new goal represent?
  • What is your sales team's close rate?
  • Is that higher or lower for online/inbound enquiries?
  • What strategies can we implement to increase their conversion rate?
  • How many inbound/online leads do you currently receive?
  • What is the increase this would require to hit your goals?
  • How many website visitors do you get?
  • What's the current conversion rate of your website?

Once we run all of these points into our calculations we begin to see a picture of whether the task is realistic in the timeframe given. It's all very well saying you want a 2,000% increase in website traffic but is that possible and will it create the leads required to hit the goal?

Once the leading goals towards the main business goal have been set the friction points are identified and the areas to work on are brought into focus. For example, if a sales team converts a good number of online leads and the business simply needs more of those to hit its target then we look at what we can do to increase the number of leads – in general there are two dials that can be tweaked to achieve this.

Increase traffic

The most simple dial is to increase traffic proportionally to achieve an increase in leads. If you're currently receiving 100 enquiries from 1,000 visits then doubling visits will, in theory, double enquiries. The focus for marketing becomes all of the potential strategies to increase visits.

Increase conversions

The second dial available for marketers to impact in order to improve results is the website's ability to convert visitors into enquiries and leads. In the example of the website generating 100 enquiries from 1,000 visitors this 10% conversion rate could be increased resulting in a marked improvement in enquiries, without necessitating and doubling of visits.

A good marketing team might actually be able to achieve both an increase in visits and an increase in conversions to over-achieve on the goal.

There are so many things a business can do with its marketing budget, and often the options are overwhelming, but there are only a few things that will actually help your business achieve its goals. By having a clear focus on what you're trying to achieve the 'how' becomes less daunting. The alternative is multiple broad goals and several disconnected activities resulting in very little of value.

If you'd like to discover ways to build a marketing strategy that's focused on your business goals then talk to us about a Marketing Strategy Day by clicking the button below.

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filed under digital marketing, marketing, strategy, business growth